Women are more likely to lose interest in sex than men if they are in monogamous, long term relationships, according to a new study.

A group of researchers from the University of Southampton and the University College London conducted a study to assess which gender enjoyed sex less after a period of time of time. The findings were published online in BMJ Open.

Image Credit: Women's Health
Image Credit: Women’s Health

The researchers found that while both men and women lost their sex drive with age, women often lost their desire for sex when living with a partner in long term relationships. The study also claims poor health and a lack of emotional closeness affected men’s and women’s sex drive.

Women lose their desire for sex more than men while in long term relationships

The researchers surveyed nearly 5,000 men and 6,700 women for the study as part of the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, UK’s largest annual study of sexual behaviors. The team of scientists said problems regarding sexual drive should be treated by looking at the whole person, rather than just prescribing drugs.

Ammanda Major, a relationship sex therapist, explained that losing interest in sex was not necessarily unusual and that there are many diverse reasons why the needs of men and women shifted.

“For some, it is a natural and normal place to be, but for others, it causes pain and misery,” Major told BBC.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 6,669 women and 4,839 men, ages 16 to 74, who reported at least one sexual partner in the last year. Overall, 34 percent of women and 15 percent of men reported a loss of their sex drive. Half of those participants –62 percent of women and 53 percent of men—reported being “distressed” by their lack of interest in sex.

Man and woman legs
“For some, it is a natural and normal place to be, but for others, it causes pain and misery,” says Ammanda Major, referring to sex. Image credit: iStock.

Moreover, the team found that people who found it always easy to talk about sex with their partners were rarely said they had lost interest in sex. That was true for both men and women.

“Our findings show us the importance of the relational context in understanding low sexual interest in both men and women,” lead author of the study Professor Cynthia Graham, from the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton, said in a statement.

Graham noted that for women, in particular, the length and quality of the relationship and communication with their partners “are important in their experience of sexual interest.”

Talking about sex can improve your sex life

In the study, men showed less interest in sex between the ages of 35-55 and women lacked more interest between 55 and 64. However, the researchers said there was no evidence that menopause was a factor for women’s declined sex drive.

But they did find that having young children at home was a factor for women. The main reasons why both men and women lost interest in sex included poor physical and mental health, as well as poor communications and lack of emotional connection during sex.

Other factors for the lack of interest included reporting an STD in the past year and experiencing sex against your will. The researchers also found other causes why women lost their sex drive, such as having three or more partners in the past year and not sharing the same sexual desires as their partner.

Major, who was not involved in the study, told BBC that even though sex is a very personal thing, talking about it can be embarrassing. However, she noted that discussing it is “often what you can do to improve your sex life.”

Researchers say to look ‘beyond anti-depressants’ to treat loss of sex drive

The researchers noted people who partner had had sexual difficulties, as well as those who were unhappy in their relationship, were more likely to report losing their sexual drive at some stage.

Professor Graham, who teaches sexual and reproductive health at the University, said the findings had increased understanding of what lay behind men’s and women’s lack of desire for sex and how to treat it.

“This highlights the need to assess and –if necessary—treat sexual desire problems in a holistic and relationship-specific, as well as gender-specific way,” she said in the statement.

Graham noted that this was a problem that can’t be fixed by a pill alone, stressing that it’s important “to look beyond anti-depressants.” Meanwhile, co-author Dr. Kristin Mitchell from the University of Glasgow, said the findings emphasize the importance of providing sexual and relationships education rather than just focus on adverse consequences of sex and how to prevent them.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first drug to boost female libido, called flibanserin.

Source: BBC